Embarkation: Let the Fun Begin!

I’ll let you in on a little secret. My family’s nom de plume is Murphy.  That law that you’ve heard about?  We live it on a daily basis, and this day was no exception.

Sorta like being in the airplane’s middle seat, but with better beverages

I won’t bore you with the details.  Instead, I will share some helpful hints so that YOUR embarcation goes more smoothly than ours.

Parking at the port was easy.  We arrived a little after noon, drove to the terminal (entrance is on 55th and 12th Ave– the ship was berthed about another block or two south of the entrance) where porters were waiting to help unload the luggage.

If by any chance you have forgotten the preprinted luggage tags Disney sent out with your cruise package, not to worry.  The porters had extra and quickly solved the problem.

Dad parked the car, while mom, the girls and aunt (that would be me) made our way inside to a terminal that was not crowded at all.  Cruise parking at the Manhattan terminal is $40 per 24 hours, payable in advance.

The girls met some very friendly greeters.  In case you’re wondering, their shirts say “My aunt is the coolest”.

Two other members of our group (my sister/girls’ grandmother, my nephew/ girls’ uncle) who drove from Massachusetts, reserved off site parking that charged half as much as the port. The best part–their service included driving you to the terminal in your own car, and helping unload luggage.  Good thing too, because between more than one stretch of bumper to bumper traffic and getting lost, they almost missed the boat.  They had no time to spare, to look for a space in the Port parking lot, park the car and high tail it back to the embarcation area.  There’s a lot to be said for arriving the day before departure.

IF you arrive around 12:30 PM, with proper documentation, you could probably be on the ship by 1:00 PM.  If, however, you happen to be missing a legal document, such as an official birth certificate for a child, you CAN have someone either fax or photograph it and email or text it to you.  See if you can figure out how I know this.

By the time some of us were on board, (2:15 PM) our rooms were ready.  Checked luggage arrived around 5 PM.

All’s well that ends well, with everyone checked in and aboard by 4 PM. The wonder and glory of sailing out of NYC might have been lost on the smallest member of our group, who was far more interested in her burger, but the rest of us loved watching the city’s skyline and Lady Liberty roll by.

Mother, daughter, and a young, cool grandmother also known as my niece, great niece and my “little” sister

About those Fish Extenders (FEs) that I mentioned in a previous post?  This is what they

 

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look like.  Notice the metal fish above the room number?  That’s where the name came from.  The idea is that group members leave little surprises for each others’ children in their FEs.

Wanna know how great some of the other passengers were?  My niece discovered the Facebook group (and FEs) about a week before departure–too late for her to create or purchase surprises for other group members.  Despite her inability to reciprocate,  people STILL left gifts for her girls.  The white board was one of the gifts–another was stuck inside the fish.  No extender necessary.IMG_5135

Lots of VERY kind, considerate shipmates were aboard!

Grander than Grand

Magnificent!  Spectacular!  Those adjectives are far more accurate descriptions of the natural wonder that we call The Grand Canyon.   It is very difficult to capture in a photograph the enormity of this “hole in the ground”.

An early explorer, with the catchy name of James Christmas Ives, was unimpressed.  He dubbed it a “profitless locality”  and predicted  “the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed.” Had cable news been around during his day, he might have had a brilliant career as a pundit. (I leave it to you to decide which station would hire him).

After meeting at the Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort in Scottsdale, our group of 35 headed off to the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs via Sedona and Flagstaff.   Our hotel is on the reservation, right by the railroad tracks.  Somehow that image didn’t make it into the hotel’s decorative window.IMG_0253It occurred to me that the trains’ engineers might have been a little annoyed that they were working while others were sleeping.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with for blasting the horn multiple times as they approached the town.  And yes, there were many, many trains–about 1 every 15 minutes. Made me feel really sorry for the people who live in the Peach Springs.

The big attractions for the western Canyon were the helicopter rides down to the canyon’s bottom, river rafting to Lake Mead on the “snout rigs”, and the Sky Walk.

First the Sky Walk.  It wasn’t quite what I had envisioned.  We didn’t go out on it, but we saw it from the top of the canyon,

View of the Sky Walk from the rim

View of the Sky Walk from the rim

then later from our river raft.  It’s that silver oval, jutting out from the top of the photo. What do you think? Worth an additional $70?

View of the Sky Walk from the Colorado River

View of the Sky Walk from the Colorado River

We didn’t think so either.

Back to the western canyon–here’s the view from the rim–very subdued colors, with a sediment laden river (that very brown ribbon) winding along the bottom. The Colorado River is quite low because of 12 years worth of droughts and the additional water needs of the area’s growing population.
P1000247Mike and I were in the last group of chopper riders, so we had time to become “one” with the landscape and to take pictures of our new friends as they climbed aboard.

The flat Colorado Plateau gave no hint of what was close by

The flat Colorado Plateau gave no hint of what was close by

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I was lucky enough to get a front seat.IMG_0650

Prior to this trip, we had toyed with the idea of rafting and camping through the canyon. Our ride on the snout rig absolutely settled that issue!
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I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those rigs are not the most comfortable way to travel. And if you are seated in the front, you are guaranteed to get wet, even when there are no rapids. Guess what–the water is COLD.

Our land transportation, on the other hand, was luxurious. Good thing, because we traveled from one end of the canyon to the other:  from Lake Mead to Lake Powell, logging many hours on that bus.P1010290
Our next stop was the one most visited by tourists–the south rim. The advantage to going a little later in the season was that the park was not crowded. Fortunately, we didn’t go TOO late. Had we waited another week, we would have found the park closed, thanks to our fine congressmen. But that’s another story.

There are so many possible captions for this next photo. “Death Wish”, “Just one more step back, honey”,  “Did you send the check to the insurance company?”…

No, they were not with OUR group!

No, they were not with OUR group!

For the more adventurous, the South Rim offers the opportunity to hike (or ride) along Bright Angel Trail.
P1010058Dinner at El Tovar was not part of our tour package, but we decided to forgo the Maswick Cafeteria and enjoy that beautiful setting.

Mike and Augusta on the porch at El Tovar

Mike and Augusta on the porch at El Tovar

The next morning, while my two favorite traveling companions caught up on their beauty sleep, I returned to the edge of the rim to catch the sunrise.

P1010043I had the view pretty much to myself.

P1010023Our last leg of the journey was to Glen Canyon where we enjoyed another raft trip and a tour of the dam.

View of the dam from the river

View of the dam from the river

If you look closely at the next photo, you will see our rafts on the left hand side of the river. We get there via a two mile tunnel carved through the rock.

View of river from the dam

View of river from the dam

Drew, our fantastic river guide, kept us informed and entertained, as he guided us down the river. A former Marine and lawyer, he chooses to spend his days piloting rafts on the river, and we all benefited greatly from that decision.
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Drew explained the significance of the petroglyphs, including the “modern” one. Can you make out the word “Trent” carved into the rock? it seems Trent just had to leave his mark, and in doing so, he also contributed many dollars and hours of community service for defacing a historical site. Yep, he got caught.

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Some people never learn. Once again, I sat in the front. Once again, I got SOAKED from head to toe.
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We spent our final night in Marble Canyon.

Here it is--the town of Marble Canyon

Here it is–the town of Marble Canyon

The best part about being in such a remote area is the skies are magnificently dark. We were lucky enough to have a professional astronomer with us–Mike gave us a wonderful impromptu lecture on the heavens.  It was a great finale to a fantastic trip!P1010353

Big, proud, and quirky…Texas, we’re talking about y’all

There aren’t many states that construct grills in their own image, at least none that I’ve encountered yet, other than Texas.

It might be hard to have a Texas shaped lunch or dinner, but fear not.  Breakfast has y’all covered.

Given that I was traveling with a “native born Texan”, (and yes, there ARE bumper stickers that say just that, or at least there were back in the days when we lived there, ) I feel I can safely poke a little fun.
We hadn’t had enough of Route 66 yet, so we caught a few more of its notable sights. I don’t think this one made it into any guide books, but I happened to like it. Besides, Italians make a big deal about THEIR tower, so why shouldn’t WE do likewise.  I give you the Leaning Water Tower of Route 66.

Groom, Texas has the biggest cross in the USA, visible for miles around. Greg once again was put to work as my point of reference. His 6’3″ body is the dark smudge at the base in the photo.
Here’s a close up of the sculpture of the Last Supper. Not sure why there are only six apostles. Did the sculptor burn out? Run out of money, take artistic license? No explanation was given.

Our very favorite Texas experience was at the Cadillac Ranch, located just outside of Amarillo. Here’s the view from the road.

As you can see,it is in the middle of nowhere.

Greg was the first to realize that this was participatory art, and quickly went to work.

The finished work:

I also left my mark…hey, mom is a lot easier than Shelley, that’s for sure, especially when the wind is blowing spray paint droplets back at ya.

Next stop, Albuquerque.